Rental Home Owners, Tempe Property Management

Communication Tips for Rental Property Owners (Part III)

This is the third entry in a blog series discussing owner-tenant communication (blog 1 and blog 2)

Conflict Management in the Property Owner-Tenant Relationship

You've done all that you can to work with a tenant. You've tried to be nice. You've tried to be patient. But you just can't take dealing with issues anymore - something has to change.

It is time for you to use some conflict management skills and make sure that your issues with your tenant are resolved. The good news? Not all conflict is bad. In fact, conflict can be good for a relationship. Through conflict, owners and tenants resolve issues instead of letting them fester. Furthermore, when conflict is managed effectively, owners and tenants learn that they can work together, which ultimately strengthens the relationship.

So if conflict is so good for us, why do we have such a negative perception of it? Well, certainly it is possible to have destructive conflict. We have all been in a conflict that escalated and ended with someone saying something that they wished they hadn't. In some ways this is natural. It is very easy for us to only see a situation from our perspective. Moreover, we tend to remember negative events in more detail and more vividly than positive events. In fact, some researchers advise a positive comment to negative comment ratio of 5:1 or greater to achieve high quality relationships.

Surely, this is good advice. But we can also improve the overall quality of conflict with a few tips. And why would we do this? The story is as old as time ladies and gentleman - to get a better return on your investment. If you can manage conflict with tenants, they will be happier, when they are happier they are more likely to renew their lease, and when they renew their lease you can avoid a vacancy. Plus, wouldn't it be ideal to look forward to conversations with your tenants instead of dreading them like you dread filing sales taxes? (which we do for our owners by the way.)

Managing Conflict

First and foremost, let us acknowledge that you are not a world class mediator or conflict negotiator. Unless you are, in which case thank you for reading this far and congratulations! For those of you who don't mediate conflict full-time, that is okay. Our blog is meant to be practical tips for property owners after all. In addition, you have everyday experience with conflict management. So as you read, apply these tips to your previous experiences with tenants. Ask could I have handled situations differently?

Tip #1: Describe Tenant Behavior, Not Tenants

A lot of us have a bad habit of getting into a conflict and, instead of describing the other persons behavior, we attack them as an individual. It might be easy for a property owner to tell someone that they are "being a bum" when they are behind on rent instead of saying, "you haven't paid the rent yet and I need to talk to you about what is going on." Or, rather than saying "you're a lazy jerk who is destroying my property" an owner might want to say, "according to your lease you are responsible for the yard work and pool cleaning and I think we can both agree that those have gone downhill since you moved in. This is something we need to resolve if you want to stay here."

Of course, these are somewhat extreme examples. But you would probably be surprised at the things owners say to their tenants that aren't too different than the examples given.

Tip #2: Find A Mutual Solution

We often jump to our need to "win" in a conflict. But it is also possible create a win-win situation (Or, for all of our fans of The Office a "win-win-win" situation). To draw on the example above regarding lawn and pool maintenance, there might be a middle ground, and this particular advice is what we often suggest to our owners. Maybe your tenant simply doesn't want to deal with lawn and pool work. So you could propose a deal. You'll hire a pool cleaner and a landscaper, but their rents will have to increase. This might offer a solution that not only makes your tenant happy, but also provides you with a higher return and a property that is maintained better.

Tip #3: Ask Yourself, Am I Perfect?

If your answer is yes, well, in that case we don't have enough space here to resolve your problems. However, if you answered no, then that's perfect - you're human. We like talking with people who are human, and so will your tenants. This self reflection helps on two levels. First, it helps you recognize if you are the problem. For example, in Arizona it is required that you fix serious health and safety issues within 5 days. This doesn't mean you take a look at a problem and say "well that will only take a day to fix, I'll put it off for 2 or 3 days because I just don't have time for it right now." Instead, you need to call someone right away and make sure repairs get started. Second, if you do realize that you've made a mistake or handled a situation incorrectly this will give you the opportunity to apologize for your mistake. You can go to your tenant and try to make amends. Admit your fault, make reparations, and let them know that it won't happen again and follow through on that promise.

Tip #4: Recognize When Enough is Enough

They say that the best camera is the camera you have with you, and we'd say the same is true for tenants. The exception to this rule is a tenant who is more headache then they are worth. At a certain point you need to realize when you have exhausted all your options. When this day comes, and for some tenants it will, you need to commit to either an eviction or a refusal to renew the lease. The route you take will of course depend on the situation. Just make sure that you commit and, if you want to evict them, do it the right way.

Don't get us wrong. You should protect yourself as an owner. You have invested valuable time and money into getting your rental property. Just make sure that your only concern isn't your own defense. You might spend so much time being concerned about your own protection that you drive away good tenants due to conflict that could have been resolved.

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